Nelson Cruz receives a warm reception but doesn’t deliver for the Rangers

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Nelson Cruz doesn’t feel guilty about the way the Texas Rangers season went this year.

He accepted a 50-game suspension on Aug. 5 when the Rangers were two games back in the American League West, and he was leading the team in home runs and RBIs. The Rangers went on to win 20 games in August, but went into a September slide when their offense couldn’t seem to get timely hits when needed.

But the Rangers battled back by winning the final seven games of the season, and Cruz rejoined the team for the tiebreaking game against the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League wild card on Monday night.

Cruz, though, showed his rust during an 0 for 4 night, and was one of several Rangers batters who couldn’t figure out David Price. Price tossed a complete-game to carry the Rays to a 5-2 victory, keeping the Rangers out of the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Asked if he felt guilty for how the Rangers season went, Cruz said: “If we don’t go to this game, maybe. It’s obviously disappointing we lost. But we lost good pitching, good starting pitchers throughout the season, I was out for two months, and the guys found a way to stay in the race.

“I’m not happy. Not the way we expected. I thought we had a chance to win today, [Price] was just dealing.”

Cruz also didn’t know what to expect when he stepped into the batter’s box for the first time since his suspension. Turned out, he had nothing to worry about as the Rangers Ballpark crowd was more than forgiving and more than happy to see the fresh-off-suspension slugger back in uniform.

Cruz received a rousing ovation from the announced crowd of 42,796 during his first at-bat.

“It was nice,” Cruz said. “I got chills. It was a good feeling, really nice.”

Cruz, though, couldn’t make an immediate impact with a runner on second in the second inning, lining out to first.

Cruz then grounded out on a changeup to start the fifth, struck out on six pitches to start the seventh and grounded out to end the game in the ninth. That may have been Cruz’s last at-bat with the Rangers, too, as he’s set to hit the free-agent market.

His free agency is part of the reason why Cruz decided to accept a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, a ban he accepted when MLB presented him with its evidence of his ties in the Biogenesis of America scandal.

The ban went through the end of the regular season, which made him eligible for Game 163. The Rangers – from front-office personnel to his teammates – supported his return, and the Rays had no issues with it, either.

“I have nothing to do with that,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “My job is to get our guys ready to play today. He served his punishment.”

Said Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist: “That’s up to the league to decide that stuff. We’ve played plenty of games with him in the lineup and we know how to face him. We believe we can win whether he’s on the field or not.”

That proved to be true in the end.

It wasn’t the memorable night Cruz or the Rangers had hoped for, although Cruz expressed an interest in spreading his story to younger players so they don’t make the same mistakes and avoid a potentially untimely suspension.

“Know who to trust,” Cruz said of what he’s been telling younger players. “Hopefully I can give my message to more kids. I can help more kids not make the same mistake that I made.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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